Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Continuous legal rulings in favor of censorship to protect the reputation of high-ranking officials served to restrict press freedom during 2007, in addition to ongoing violent attacks against the media, including the killing of one journalist. While the 1988 constitution guarantees freedom of expression, several courts continue to prosecute journalists under the 1967 Press Law, which was passed during a military dictatorship. During its sessions in December 2007, Congress debated the possibility of amending the 1967 law to decriminalize defamation offenses. Legal avenues, such as privacy protections under the Brazilian civil code, were often invoked to harass and censor the press in the local courts. While many cases were overturned on appeal, cases of court-imposed censorship to protect politicians, influential businessmen, and government officials served to limit the public’s right to information and promote self-censorship among journalists. Joao Henrique Cameiro, mayor of Salvador, successfully petitioned a Bahia court in June to prevent the Metropole media network from mentioning his name in any of the group’s print, broadcast, or web media. The judge also ordered the seizure of 30,000 copies of a Metropole magazine that featured the mayor in an unfavorable light. A few days later, an appeals court judge overturned the ruling. Local courts in the states of Sao Paulo and Santa Catarina also issued preventive censorship rulings. A Sao Paulo local court banned the weekly Folha de Vinhedo from publishing an interview in which Paulo Cabral, a former government official, accused local officials and businessmen of corruption. After an appeal, however, this ban was overturned. According to Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), in February, a Santa Catarina local court banned the Gazeta de Joinville from mentioning the names of Joinville mayor Marco Tebaldi, his wife, and former Miss Brazil Taiza Thomsen, after the paper referred to an alleged affair between the mayor and the former beauty queen.
Journalists and members of the media also continued to serve as targets for violent physical attacks in 2007, particularly those who reported on organized crime and corruption. On May 5, journalist Luiz Carlos Barbon Filho of the JC Regional and Jornal do Porto newspapers, who was also a Radio Porto FM contributor, was shot and killed in Porto Ferreira in the state of Sao Paulo. Barbon was known for his reports on corruption involving people close to the local government, including a 2003 investigation that accused local businessmen and city officials of being responsible for child sex abuse. The case of Barbon’s murder remained under investigation at year’s end. Another journalist, Amaury Ribeiro Junior of the daily Correio Brasiliense, was shot in September while investigating organized crime in the outskirts of Brasilia. While the attack on Ribeiro was classified as an attempted robbery by local police, the journalist believed it was related to his investigation and left the field of journalism. Four men were arrested in relation to the shooting. Radio host Joao Alckmin, who has been the victim of threats and harassment for years owing to his reporting on corruption and the involvement of local police in illegal gambling in eastern Sao Paulo state, was shot twice in November. Alckmin was the suspected target of an attack in July that wounded Rodrigo Duenhas, a lawyer who worked with Alckmin’s wife. Anchor Domingues Junior from Rede TV Rondonia was also attacked in his own home, along with his family, by five unidentified armed individuals. Junior had denounced a money-for-votes scheme by the state government and had received death threats. In a number of cases over the years, former and incumbent government officials have been guilty of both legal and extralegal attacks on the media. In January, former secretary of communication Luiz Gushiken asked the federal police to investigate several reporters from leading news organizations on suspicion of corruption. As reported by RSF, his request, which was publicized by journalist Paulo Henrique Amorim in his blog, included a list of journalists “likely to harm [his] reputation.” Gushiken himself was accused by the Ministerio Publico of improper financial management. In August, Eurico Mariano, former mayor of Coronel Sapucaia in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, was convicted of ordering the 2004 shooting of Paraguayan radio journalist Samuel Roma in order to silence his reporting. The former mayor received close to 18 years in prison for his role in the murder.
As South America’s largest media market, Brazil boasts dynamic and diverse media, presenting an array of opinions on social and political issues as well as criticisms of the government and its policies. The country is home to hundreds of newspapers and television stations in addition to thousands of radio stations. Nevertheless, vigorous investigative journalism is more often practiced in the main cities as opposed to the interior, where legal and physical threats feed a climate of intimidation. Despite the pluralism of Brazil’s media, ownership is highly concentrated, particularly within the broadcast sector. Globo Organizations, a large media conglomerate, continues to enjoy a dominant position, maintaining ownership of Brazil’s principal television and cable networks, as well as several radio stations and print media outlets. Another company, Editora Abril, dominates the magazine industry, holding more than two-thirds of the market. Meanwhile, close ties between lawmakers and media owners continue to threaten the development of a fully independent press, particularly in regions where state and federal government representatives own broadcasting licenses and newspapers. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that in October the president launched a new state-owned media group, Empresa Brasil de Comunicacion, which will run the new channel TV Brasil.
In a country with huge social disparities, Brazil has made tremendous gains in expanding internet access. More than 22 percent of Brazilians accessed the internet in 2007, representing almost 50 percent of the total users in South America. While internet use has been mostly unrestricted in the past, several legal actions in 2007 raised concerns for freedom of expression. Senator Expedito Junior submitted a draft law to the Senate in December proposing to increase the length of prison sentences by one-third for offenses of denigration, defamation, and insult that are committed online. The penalty would be further increased if the victim is a government official, holds a public position, is elderly, or is handicapped. The bill was being examined by a senatorial committee at year’s end. Altino Machado, a former journalist for the leading dailies Folha de Sao Paulo and Estado do Sao Paulo, was forced to pay a fine for posting an image on his blog of a minor sitting on top of the statue of a local poet. The picture had been copied from the boy’s web page in a social network site, and the minor’s family has asked Machado to withdraw the picture. More than 25 defamation lawsuits have been brought against blogger Alcinea Cavalcanti. Senator Jose Sarney, who felt personally offended by the content of several postings, was responsible for initiating the majority of the lawsuits. In December 2007, a court in the southern city of Porto Alegre forced journalist Vitor Vieira to withdraw content from an internet site that compromised a state representative.